Allen Fieldhouse is an indoor arena in the central United States, on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas. It is home of the Kansas Jayhawks men's and women's basketball teams. The arena is named after Dr. Forrest C. "Phog" Allen, a former player and head coach for the Jayhawks whose tenure lasted 39 years. Allen Fieldhouse is one of college basketball's most historically significant and prestigious buildings, with 37 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament games having been hosted at the center. The actual playing surface has been named the James Naismith Court, in honor of basketball's inventor, who established KU's basketball program and served as the Jayhawks' first coach from 1898 to 1907.
"The Cathedral of Basketball"
|Address||1651 Naismith Drive|
Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.
|Owner||University of Kansas|
|Operator||University of Kansas|
|Record attendance||17,228 (March 1, 1955)|
(opener vs. K-State)
|Opened||March 1, 1955|
|Renovated||1986, 1994, 1999, 2001|
|Construction cost||$2.5 million (original)|
($23.9 million in 2019 dollars)
|Architect||Charles L. Marshall|
|General contractor||Bennett Construction|
|Kansas Jayhawks (NCAA DI) (1955–present)|
Allen Fieldhouse has also hosted several NCAA tournament regionals, NBA exhibition games, and occasional concerts such as The Beach Boys, Elton John, James Taylor, Sonny and Cher, Leon Russell, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Tina Turner, Harry Belafonte, Henry Mancini, The Doobie Brothers, Kansas, and Bob Hope, as well as speakers, including former President Bill Clinton in 2004, Senator Robert F. Kennedy (which drew over 20,000) in March 1968, and anarchist Abbie Hoffman in 1970.
ESPN The Magazine named Allen Fieldhouse the loudest college basketball arena in the country. The arena broke the Guinness World Record for loudest roar on February 13, 2017, against West Virginia at 130.4 dB. The prior record of 126.4 dB at Lexington's Rupp Arena which lasted less than three weeks also had many Kansas fans present as the Jayhawks beat the #4 Wildcats 79-73 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Allen Fieldhouse is often considered one of the best home court advantages in men's college basketball. The Jayhawks have won over 70 percent of their games in Allen Fieldhouse, losing only a little over 100 games in its over 60-year history. Under current head coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks have had three home court winning streaks over 30 games and two streaks that have reached over 50 games.
The construction of Allen Fieldhouse began in 1952, but quickly ground to a halt because of a federal mandate restricting steel consumption following the Second World War and during the Korean War. However, university officials were able to find a loophole: by adding some rooms for gun and weapons storage, construction of the building was able to continue under the guise of an "armory."
Allen Fieldhouse was dedicated on March 1, 1955, a ten-point victory over rival Kansas State. Renovations have included minor seating expansions in 1986 and 1994, as well as accessibility upgrades in 1999 to modernize concession stands and restroom facilities, and to install an elevator in the south end. Handicapped seating was moved courtside behind both baskets in 2001.
The concourse was originally an indoor track. At times the Fieldhouse has been home to men's and women's basketball, indoor track and field, volleyball, and practice facilities for the American football and softball teams. Since additional facilities were constructed to accommodate many of those needs, it is now used primarily for basketball.
Max Falkenstien was a stalwart figure in the radio booth, working every home game in Allen Fieldhouse from its construction to his retirement in 2006, 51 years later.
Renovations completed in 2005 include a thorough cleaning of the exterior, and the creation of a new Booth Family Hall of Athletics facility on the east side of the Fieldhouse, funded by David G. Booth and his family. Interior renovations include a new hardwood court, new windows, and a multimillion-dollar video board and sound system. After 2006, new banners for the retired jerseys and conference and national championships were installed.
Renovations completed in 2009 include an expansion of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics and the creation of a donor atrium, as well as improved concessions, wider concourses, and restroom upgrades. The building also received brand new locker rooms, training rooms, film rooms, and player lounges. A pedestrian bridge connecting the fieldhouse to the existing facility parking garage was also constructed. The improvements cost approximately $7.8 million.
In December 2010, the Booth family announced they had purchased the founding document of the game of basketball, Dr. Naismith's original 13 Rules of Basketball. The document will be permanently housed in an addition to Allen Fieldhouse called the "DeBruce Center". The story behind the Booth family purchasing the document from a Sotheby's auction from the Naismith family was featured in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, including fending off a rival bidder who wanted to donate the document to his alma mater Duke University for a similar display at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Allen Fieldhouse was built with a capacity of 17,000. During Ted Owens' coaching period (1964–83), the capacity was reduced to 15,200 to improve fire code-mandated egress routes. It was raised to 15,800 in the 1986 offseason, and since 1993, its official capacity has been 16,300. Of these seats, 4,000 are dedicated to KU students, with most of the remainder taken by season-ticket-holding members of the Williams Educational Fund, the fundraising arm of KU Athletics, named after Lawrence banker Dick Williams and his sons, Skipper and Odd. The largest crowd in Allen Fieldhouse for a basketball game was 17,228 on March 1, 1955, when the building was dedicated. Barring another expansion of seating, it is unlikely this record will ever be broken as fire codes have forced KU to strictly enforce the building's capacity since the mid-1980s.
In lieu of retiring numbers, banners hang on the south wall of the fieldhouse to honor former players including Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Lovellette, Jo Jo White, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, Lynette Woodard, Drew Gooden, Nick Collison, and Kirk Hinrich, among others. The banners display the player's surname over his/her number, but the numbers themselves are reused. There is also a banner to honor Max Falkenstien, a former Jayhawks radio announcer, who was given the "number" 60 to commemorate his 60 years of service to the university. To date he is the only non-athlete to be so honored at Allen Fieldhouse. The east and west rafters are devoted to KU's multiple Final Fours and conference championships.
On the north wall hang banners for KU's five national championships: their two championships awarded by the Helms Foundation for KU's 1922 and 1923 seasons, as well as their three NCAA tournament titles in 1952, 1988, and 2008.
Above these championship banners hangs a banner reading "Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog", in reference to the intimidating atmosphere and the team's home court dominance. The original "Pay Heed" banner was constructed out of dormitory shower curtains by a group of KU students before a late-season game against the Duke Blue Devils in 1988 and is now on display in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics museum. The slogan was inspired in part by advertisements for the 1980s horror movie The Fog. It hung on the north wall until 1999, by which time it had deteriorated to the point where it was about to fall. The university replaced the banner with a much more regular-looking design, which met with negative reaction from the public. The current banner was redesigned to be more faithful to the look of the original.
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- Additional Sources
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Allen Fieldhouse.|
- Kansas 2002–03 Basketball Media Guide. Topeka, Kansas: Mainline Printing, 2002.
- Kansas Jayhawks History-making basketball. Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1991.